John Smith
Methodist Circuit Rider

Brief Biography

Born at Cudworth in Yorkshire, January, 1794, John Smith was a consecrated Methodist circuit rider who brought thousands of people to God. Smith was remarkable for his firm faith in God's great willingness to save the worst of sinners, for his love for prayer-meetings after public worship, and for his urgency upon sinners to receive Christ now, and be saved upon the spot. He laboured in London, Brighton, Windsor, Frome, Nottingham, Lincoln and Sheffield. He spent much time on his knees praying down God's blessings on his ministry. He died at the age of 37 in 1831.

Two Longer Biographies

"On the day after his conversion he read about thirty chapters of his Bible; and from this time onward God's book was his delight, and seldom was there a day on which he did not commit some of it to his memory. He was accustomed to retire to fields and woods, and other places of concealment, to pray for a larger supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. One day, soon after his conversion, being under peculiar temptation, he retired into a cavern, where he continued in prayer till he felt such an overshadowing of God's presence as quite overwhelmed him. He took many opportunities also of talking to those who had lately been his companions in wickedness about their souls, telling them what God had done for him, and urging them to abandon their sinful ways.... (Read the rest of a longer biography)

Richard Treffrey: Memoires of the Life, Character and Labours of John Smith
(Taken from British Messenger article)

If he speak health and soundness into the soul, we shall be capacitated to do his will. We shall do well to wait at his feet till he speaks. I am looking for a deeper baptism fo the Holy Ghost. I am greatly encouraged by what God has already done for me, and by his numerous exceeding great and precious promies secured to them that believe. It is well to dare to take God at his word, to venture on the promises as well as we can, notwithstanding all opposition and difficulty, until it is easy to lay hold of the blessing, to claim it as ours in all its fulness and glory. We cannot believe too much; we cannot believe too soon. A man who is in perfet health naturally desires to be in action; he does well to be in action. When God has written his law in the heart, his commandments are not grievous. The sum is this: the first business of a diseased man is to get cured.”

"If I do not see you, present yourself as a hell-deserving sinner before God: acknowledge the goodness of God in the gift of his Son, whether you feel it or not. Rest your soul with your sin on the atonement and mediation of Christ, and wait for the Holy Ghost. Claim the Spirit. The promise is to you. Everything must yield to his working. Do have the Spirit, in spite of hell and yourself. God is for you: wait, O wait, my dear brother; God will come. He will make you unspeakably happy."

"Be in the will of God: Know that you are in it fully,—constantly. Perhaps you will have to spend hours on your knees, or upon your face before the throne. Never mind; wait! God will do great things for you, if you will yield to him, and co-operate with him. O play the man! Dwell in the clear light. I am hoping that God will make you a great blessing: but you must be a burning and shining light. The fire must come from heaven:—you have free access. Nelson says to me,- ' Remember, men must be saved First.' Be determined not to rest, unless souls get into clear liberty. We have a deal to say to them, but they must be saved. O what numbers among us are not clear in pardon! Let us agonize to get them into liberty. Maintain simplicity. If you spend several hours in prayer daily, you will see great things. I long for you. I do not cease to pray for you. You and your family are closely connected with my mercies: when I think of them, I think of you; so that as long as I have piety, I shall not forget you. I am resting on the atonement and intercession of Jesus. God gives himself to me. His Spirit is in me. O what rest is connected with an indwelling God! The abominations of the people around me fill me with grief. I can only find relief in the mercy and power of God, and in the merits of Christ. Many of our people are very ignorant of the way of faith. When the power of God is mightily upon them, they do not lay hold of what they want. Until there be a taking hold of God, we cannot expect much signal work."

"(Jesus) is precious to my soul. I rest on him; and I do not rest on him in vain. God is my portion: all my springs are in him; they never fail. Still I am tardy: O how powerfully I ought to be attracted by his excellencies! May he quicken me!—Be determined to make use of Jesus, lay claim to his merit, and take for your own. He is God's gift to you and to the world. In the right of Jesus, claim the Spirit; expect to be filled; do expect and wait. All is yours. Offer yourself to God as you are, with all your badness, and believe that he takes you through Christ. Do believe. God will bruise Satan under your feet shortly; and your badness shall yield to the working of the Spirit. O, believe! The word of God is sure. He cannot lie. I hope to see you shortly; to weep with you if you weep; to rejoice with you if you rejoice."

"O the happiness to know that my sins are put away by the sacrifice of Christ! Of this I have not the shadow of a doubt. I want more of the Spirit: for this I pray, for this I read, for this I believe, and I want to believe more. I must believe for salvation; not be saved, and then believe. I have a painful sense of my inability for the important work in which I am engaged; but it is the work of God. He is all-sufficient: if he has called me to it, he will help me; if not, he will send me home again, and he will save me. I am in his hands, bless the Lord!"

"I never was more sensible of the necessity of experiencing the truths of the gospel in order to preach them successfully to others. A conscious salvation is absolutely necessary."

"If it please the Lord to use me, He has a right to me. He shall have all; body, soul, time, talents—All."

"My soul is alive to God. Of late the Lord has revived His work in my soul, especially in private devotion. Mr. Bramwell once said, 'If you wish for any great and lasting blessing, expect it in private.' Never was I more fully convinced of the absolute necessity of personal holiness of heart and life."

"The Lord has been exceedingly kind to me this day; I have had some precious seasons in private. Never did I feel more, never, I think, so much of the power of God as at the prayer-meeting to night."

From John Nelson to John Smith: "
Always go sword in hand, and beg of God the power of the Spirit, while you raise it to His glory. Now is your time to play the man. Do not study until your head aches. Lay your plans, short but clear; look always for divine aid, and after you have spread the net, close it with great care, that you may there and then bring some to shore. Preach, in the Holy Ghost, and before you dismiss your audience offer them salvation now. Never lose sight of present salvation, nor of God who is to work it. Give Him all the glory. Should any attempt to praise you, turn immediately to God, 'Lord, I am thine, save me!"

Of late I have had some precious seasons, both in public and private. I want more of the spirit of prayer. There is nothing like getting filled with the Spirit before we go to the house of God, and then pleading with God in the presence of His people. Oh, let us go on in the name of the Lord, and expect present effects; yea, let us be restless for the salvation of souls. We shall not labour in vain. What condescension in God to use such unworthy creatures in the accomplishment of His designs!"

I am a broken-hearted man; yes, indeed, I am an unhappy man; not for myself, but on account of others. God has given me such a sight of the value of precious souls that I cannot live if souls are not saved. O give me souls, or else I die!'"

I must read my Bible more. I must devour God's book, or how can I know His mind? I do not legislate for others, but I must be allowed to follow my own views on this subject.'"

"Oh, if we were always filled with the Holy Ghost before we go to the house of God, we should see signs and wonders!"

"It is an abomination when men talk as if they were more willing to bless, than God."

His Method of Parlor Preaching:
He first gave out a verse of a hymn, and engaged in prayer. Then he proceeded to inquire into the spiritual state of each in the room, and gave advice and prayed."

Secret of Success:
His faith in God. "Of all that he did or suffered, of all that he experienced or enjoyed, faith was the great, the animating principle."

Regarding his Natural Ability:
John Smith was in no respect distinguished initially. "His talents were generally considered below mediocrity. He was not a popular preacher, nor was he extraordinarily zealous. But during the nine months that he was in York a great change came over him. He hungered and thirsted after righteousness, and he was filled. He became still more prayerful and Bible-reading, redeemed every opportunity for study and usefulness, and God opened his mouth and gave him a tongue of fire."

On the Bible:
"On the day after his conversion he read about thirty chapters of his Bible; and from this time onward God's book was his delight, and seldom was there a day on which he did not commit some of it to his memory."

Two Verses that Particularly Animated Him:
Prov. 3:5 "In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."
Matt. 6:33: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you."

On Trusting God for Victory:
"Let us look attentively into our hearts, look into the written word, and look up to God for the light of the Spirit to shine upon the heart and the word. Whatever we discover in us contrary to the word, let us bring it before the Lord, (for we cannot take it away ourselves,) and plead with him until we feel power to venture on Jesus for its destruction. When God speaks to the inmost soul, ‘Be clean,’ all corruption and defilement shall depart, and purity shall be diffused through the soul. Let us not be discouraged, however frightful our hearts may appear, and however feeble and helpless we may feel; Jesus’ blood is all cleansing: Jesus’ grace is all-powerful. Jesus is ours by faith. God offers him to us. O let us lay hold of a whole Saviour! Let us force ourselves to the foot of the cross, lift up our eyes, and look to Jesus, till our hearts are pierced to the very bottom with his dying love. Let us continue there till his love has melted us down, that we may receive and retain the impression divine: ‘Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.’ ‘Be ye holy, for I am holy.’ ‘For this purpose was the Son of God manifested in the flesh, that he might,’—what? subdue the works of the devil? weaken the power of sin in the heart? No; but ‘that he might destroy the works of the devil.’ O then let us say as God says, ‘Destruction—complete destruction—to sin!’ Faith, which is a continued and conscious act, will preserve us pure. Let us cry day and night to God for this faith, perfect faith. We shall meet with much opposition. The world cannot do with this: the devil hates this; but few professors will do with this: but the will of God! the will of God!” Sigston, p. 53,54


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